Eurail Passes and Europasses are ideal for backpackers, since it allows them to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time. But since the last thing you want is to get stuck in a small European country with an expired pass, it's important to know exactly how to use these passes properly:

  • You must begin using your pass within six months of purchase.
  • You must mark each date of travel in the space provided on your pass BEFORE getting on the train. Usually this is not a problem, but some stuffy conductors - or those fishing for bribes - will give you a hard time otherwise. Though quite rare, the stiffest penalty you could face would be the cost of the train trip, a $100 fine, AND the confiscation of your Eurail or Europass. It's not worth risking the wrath; just remember to fill out your pass before boarding.
  • Any day of travel actually begins the previous night at 8 p.m. This is a huge perk that you should take advantage of; travel by night train as often as possible, since you'll want to be seeing cities during the day, plus it saves you one night's accommodations. Of course, if you've got enough cash, you can still save the day for sightseeing and buy a bed in a sleeper or couchette on a train, usually for about $20.
  • While they entitle you to free travel on any train in the given countries, sometimes you still have to pay a reservation fee for a seat. This is true of most specialty or high-speed trains, and certain countries always or often require it, like Spain and Italy. But don't worry . . . even with the reservation fee, you're still saving crazy amounts of money.
  • Both of these passes offer group discounts, even for groups of 2.
  • If you want to save even more money, you can buy a Euroline pass, good for unlimited bus travel between selected cities for 30 or 60 days. The travel time is much longer and your options are much more limited (many countries only have one city included), but the price is nice; it ranges from $249 for a youth traveling 30 days in the off-season, to $449 for an adult traveling 60 days in the high season. There are bathrooms on board.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW backpack through Europe?